Solidarity is for Suckers: The right-wing media war on the common good

Solidarity is for Suckers: The right-wing media war on the common good

“The American Labor Movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America.” — John F. Kennedy

 “Whatever their faults, unions have been the only powerful and effective voice working people have ever had in the history of this country.” — Bruce Springsteen

The union loss in UAWVW vote in Chattanooga last week is a wake up call to the power of the right-wing media echo chamber to warp public discourse towards their narrow agenda.

You could fill many volumes with specific instances of smears, distortions and false narratives woven by right-wing media spin-meisters over the past decades many of which, echoed by the broader media, have tainted the public attitude and understanding toward unions and the labor movement.

But even when it is not specifically attacking unions and union workers, the right-wing media monolith’s constant war of divisive wedge issues and derision of the common good works to create a toxic cultural atmosphere that undermines the union message and movement.

The building of union strength is only possible when there is an understanding of solidarity. 


Solidarity is defined as: fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, unity or agreement of feeling or action, esp. among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

It is through this balance of motivated individual interest and connection to community and cooperation that the labor movement creates a needed counterbalance to the forces of organized avarice.

The message coming from the noxious noise of the right-wing media is that solidarity is for suckers.

What do they offer in its stead? Impossible dreams of personal material acquisition and comic book delusions of phony “individual freedom,” amounting to gun hoarding and bunker building.

“You’re on your own, Jack, and you are worthless before God and man if you can’t compete in an ever more ruthless “free-market” system. Its zero sum out there, my friend. You can’t trust anyone, ‘cause they’re only in it for themselves just like you. Keep your head down and keep tuning in every day. I’m the only one who understands your anger and frustration…because I help concoct your anger and frustration out of your fears and by keeping you blind to other possibilities.”

Why are they so committed to destroying unions? 

It should be clear by now that a major elements of the right-wing movement are ideological zealots who have true contempt for working people and adhere to an almost worship of Ayn Randian notions of wealth and corporate power. Just look at recent extremist efforts to use a government shut down as extortion to stop health care reform and their absolute resistance to extending unemployment insurance to desperate families.

And its also that unions work. They work to put a check on corporate overreach and they are effective in elections, especially in putting “boots-on-the-ground” to counter the influx of secret money into the “airwar” of negative ads.

Finally, and most crucially, unions are living breathing, real world proof that human life isn’t a zero sum, social Darwinian nightmare. That everyone does better when everyone does better and people can take it into their power to build a better more decent society by, to borrow from FDR, taking up cooperation where competition fails. 

Dude, Where’s My Union

Dude, Where’s My Union

UAW Drive Succumbs to Right-Wing Media Blitz

Last week the United Auto Workers union came up short in the election to decide on wether they would represent workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN.

Had they won the workers would have been the first unionized VW employees in the United States and an important inroad for the union movement would have been forged in the South.

Back in September, Volkswagen had issued a letter pledging not to oppose the union effort and CEO Frank Fischer asserted the company, “…is committed to neutrality and calls upon all third parties to honor the principle of neutrality.”

Often companies bitterly fight attempts by workers to seek union protections, so VW’s attitude of acceptance generated optimism that the way was cleared for a historic result for labor in Chattanooga.

However, the final count showed out of 1338 eligible voters, 626 cast votes in favor and 712 against with 147 not participating.

What went wrong?

There has been much attention on the threats issued by Sen Corker and state GOP politicians that a ‘yes’ vote for the union would mean a cut off of state subsidies to VW and cause a steering of new jobs away from the state, a claim strongly denied by the company itself.

Not as much focus has been given to the media amplification machine that was ginned up in the weeks before the vote to poison public opinion against unionization at VW in Chattanooga.

This artificial “echo chamber” played on the decades long smear, demonization and scapegoating of unions by right-wing media voices. 

RWM vs. Labor Media

Documents reveal that Chattanooga was turned into a microcosm of what the right-wing media machine has worked to create in the culture overall; a closed circuit of misleading and biased misinformation, along with emotionalized false narratives to short-circuit rational deliberation. 

Last week we talked about “Astro-turfing,” the propaganda-driven efforts of big money shadow groups to manipulate opinion and emotion toward their agenda.

After all, when your proposals are all about serving the very few at the economic top no matter what that means to everyone else, you need a massive effort to convince (deceive) people to join your cause.

And indeed, Grover Norquist of the far-right Americans for Tax Reform produced just such a campaign in Tenn by channeling funding to an Orwellianly named front group: Center for Worker Freedom.

It was understood that with the company not opposing, there would need to be an intense outside push to defeat the union.

Norquist, working with an outside anti-union paid “consultant, generated numerous anti-UAW news hits which were pushed into local and national media.

A dozen billboards in the city displayed messages including “United Obama Workers” to inject partisan politics and race into the atmosphere.

But none of this had to be conjured out of thin air. 

The point is there is already in existence an intense right-wing media infrastructure from pervasive local and national talk radio to Fox “News” to so-called “think tanks” like Heritage and Cato.

This amounts to a nonstop, union-busting propaganda campaign beamed into cars and homes 24 hours a day every day of the year for decades now.

All Norquist and associates had to do was hyper-activate this machine for the specifics of the VW fight.

Like the larger right-wing media movement, they used rhetoric and propaganda to cynically manipulate public sentiment for purely financial and ideological goals, with no regard for truth or the consequences of their divisive, scorched-earth tactics.

Just think alone of the capability to have Senator Corker’s false, fear mongering message repeated by accommodating mass media, until it saturated the local debate with mind numbing anxiety.

Psychologists warn of the “Illusion of Truth” created when a message is absorbed over and over, especially when triggering emotional vulnerability like fear or anxiety.

As we do the post-mortem and analysis of the union loss in TN, lets be sure to look the ponderous pachyderm of pervasive propaganda squarely in the eye.